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Udell Experimental Forest

Manistee County, Michigan

In 1961, the 1,538-ha Udell Experimental Forest was established by the USDA Forest Service as a field laboratory for studying the hydrology of forested glacial sand sites. One of the major objectives was to compare water yields from the primary forest cover types. The Udell is located in Manistee County and on the Manistee Ranger District of the Lower Michigan National Forest.


Weather statistics for the Udell are supplied by NOAA climate summary (1995). Average temperatures for January range from -9 to -2 °C; for July they range from 15 to 27 °C. Average annual rainfall is 790 mm; snowfall is 2,340 mm. There are 6 days when the temperature exceeds 32 °C and 5 days when it dips below -18 °C.


The Udell consists of sand outwash plains surrounding a sand moraine that result from the late Pleistocene (Valders) advance of continental glaciation about 10,000 years ago. Terminal moraines of the Port Huron substage were breached and reworked by this ice front and its recessional melt waters to form a large sand plain surrounding small morainal remnants, one of which is the upland known locally as the Udell Hills. The Manistee and Little Manistee Rivers flow westward to Lake Michigan through the sand plain. The Udell lies between these two rivers. Small tributaries to the Little Manistee River form in high water-table areas southeast of the Udell Hills. The Pine and Claybank Creeks flow from the north side of the area and drain into the Manistee River. The pattern of water-table levels shows that ground water flowing from the study area supplies these streams. Upland soils are predominantly within the Grayling sand soil type, a Spodic Udipsamment. On some ridgetops in the morainal hills, a clayey sand susbsoil within the surface 120 cm characterizes inclusions of the Graycalm series (Alfic Udipsamment). Shallow water-table areas on the northwest and southeast boundaries contain the imperfectly drained Au Gres sands (Entic Haplaquod) and poorly drained areas contain Roscommon sand (Typic Aquipsamment) interspersed with woody Tawas histosols. Grayling sand covers more than 90 percent of the Udell.


Approximately 70 percent of the Udell is in oak and aspen forest cover types. Stand composition in these types range from mixed oaks with relatively few aspen to pure aspen stands. There are about 610 ha of jack pine and red pine plantations that have been established on the eastern and western outwash plains. In the southeast and northwest portions, lowland hardwood forests of elm, red maple, and occasional northern white-cedar are found.

Research, Past and Present

Research at the Udell has focused on the effects of forest type and partial cutting on ground-water yields and pulp and papermill sludge fertilization of red pine plantations.

Major Research Accomplishments and Effects on Management

Numerous reports have been published on changes in streamflow resulting from reforestation and cutting.


Collaborators include the Huron-Manistee National Forest, Manistee Ranger District, and Lower Michigan National Forest.

Research Opportunities

Considerable portions of upland moraines, level outwash plains, and hardwood swamp areas are instrumented with wells and other measurement devices to determine the behavior of ground-water level under existing forest conditions. The forest includes the major portions of the surrounding plains and segments of extensive hardwood swamp areas.


The Udell extends from 1.6 to 4.8 km south of a major access highway (M-55). Research personnel are headquartered at Cadillac, Michigan, 56 km to the east. Field operations at the forest are centered at the Pine River Forest Laboratory, 16 km east of the forest near the junction of Highways M-55 and M-37.

Lat. 44°15′ N, long. 85°24′ W

Contact Information

Udell Experimental Forest
USDA Forest Service
Northern Research Station
3101 Discovery Dr., Suite F
Lansing, MI 48910
Tel: (517) 355-7740

Related Publications

Urie, Dean H. 1977. Ground water differences on pine and hardwood forests of the Udell Experimental Forest in Michigan.

Summary information presented here was originally published in:

Adams, Mary Beth; Loughry, Linda; Plaugher, Linda, comps. 2004. Experimental Forests and Ranges of the USDA Forest Service. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-321. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station. 178 p.

Information may have been updated since original publication.

Last Modified: 05/05/2016